On March 17, the Central Employment Security Council presented its draft guidelines and recommendations for revising the Employment Security Law to the Minister of Labour. The council is headed by Shunsaku Nishikawa of Shumei University and is an advisory organ to the Minister of Labour, Akira Amari. The draft guidelines call for the liberalization of a number of professions currently restricted in terms of job-placement services. It also suggests penalties for agents who leak private information of job applicants. In response to the recommendations, the Ministry of Labour has drafted a bill revising the law, and submitted it to a Cabinet meeting on March 26 and then to the current Diet session.
The nation's job-placement services are provided mainly by Public Employment Security Offices (PESO). Private job-placement services do not play a major role due to many restrictions. They can only deal with certain professions outside protective services, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, transportation, telecommunications, manufacturing and construction. Also an upper limit is set on the commissions they may charge. Recently, however, the mismatch between job offers and job applicants in the labor market has become more pronounced in terms of age and job type due to changes in the industrial structure and the attitude of job applicants toward work. In fact, the unemployment rate is deteriorating and the period required for jobless people to find employment is becoming longer.
As a result, calls to ease restrictions on private job placement companies have been getting louder. Economic circles in particular have wanted to encourage private companies to provide job-placement services and substantiate the services. There is another reason for the Ministry of Labour to propose revision of the law. In June 1997 the ILO's General Assembly adopted Convention Number 181 which acknowledges the important role played by private job-placement companies. The Japanese government would like to ratify the treaty, but must revise the law to do so.
The bill sent to the Diet would allow private job- placement companies to be involved in all areas except construction and port cargo services. Meanwhile, the rules protecting workers eligible for job placement will be strengthened. Agents will be penalized if they violate the confidentiality of workers' personal information. Furthermore, guidelines for collecting and preserving personal information on workers will be clearly detailed by the Minister of Labour.
Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Conferedation), the nation's largest national labor center, has remarked that the revised law is still inadequate in terms of protecting workers' rights and its effectiveness. However, it also accepted the inevitability of liberalization given the ILO's ratification of Convention Number 181.
In a bid to cope adequately with the severe employment situation, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided to move and expand its job counseling services at its Shinjuku PESO (Public Employment Security Office). The new PESO opened on April 27.
The job counseling services were begun in 1960. The number of those coming for advice has increased rapidly since last year, and the office has always been jam-packed. Sometimes visitors had to wait for several hours to be served. Worse yet, much of the job application information was filed away, meaning that more than one visitor could not access it at one time.
The new PESO is located on the 23rd floor of the Shinjuku L Tower, and has a floor space of about 1,300 square meters, making it 2.6 times larger than the old office. It is equipped with 150 touch panel-type terminals which can retrieve information on job openings. This enabled users to input specifications and other information for the type of jobs they want.
The hours for providing job information and counseling services were also extended. The old office was open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. The new office is open until 7:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
A Shinjuku PESO official recently commented that a growing number of people had decided to seek better working conditions by changing jobs. These were in addition to those looking for work as a result of restructuring. The new office is designed to meet the needs of all these people.
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